Hattori Nankaku (服部南郭)

Nankaku HATTORI (November 12, 1683 - July 15, 1759) was a Confucian, composer of Chinese poems and a painter in Japan who lived during the middle of the Edo period and, was known as a high-caliber disciple of Sorai OGYU.

His name was Genkyo, his common name was Kohachi which later became Shouemon, his azana (Chinese courtesy name which was, historically, the name formerly given to adult Chinese men, used in place of their given name in formal situations; scholars and the literati of Japan adopted this custom of courtesy name) was Shisen, his second name other than Nankaku was Fuyokan, and he had Shusetsu, Kano and so on for his pseudonyms. He would sometimes call himself in the Chinese style as Nankaku FUKU, Genkyo FUKU, and Shisen FUKU.


He was born as the second son of HATTORI family who were wealthy townspeople in Kyoto. His father was Motochika, and his mother was Ginko, who was the daughter of Shunsho YAMAMOTO, a master of makie (Japanese lacquer sprinkled with gold or silver powder). His father, Motochika, had studied under Kijin KITAMURA, and Nankaku grew up in a family rich in education of refined poetry such as waka (a traditional Japanese poem of thirty-one syllables), renga (linked verse), and other than lessons on poetry and paintings, he was educated with 'shisho' (The Four Books of Confucianism), 'kanshi' (Chinese poetry) and so on. When he lost his father at the age of 13, he went to Edo counting on his personal connections. When he was around the age of 17, his poems and paintings were approved by the lord of the domain of Kofu, Yoshiyasu YANAGISAWA, and for 18 years since, he served for him. There were many outstanding scholars that served for the YANAGISAWA family (Kotaku HOSOI, Sadamiki SHIMURA, Ogyu SORAI, Sozan KURAYAMA, Miki WATANABE, and so on), and among them, he admired Sorai OGYU, and gradually, Nankaku shifted to Kangaku (Chinese classics). Four years after the death of Yoshiyasu YANAGISAWA in 1718, he retired since he was shunned by Yoshisato YANAGISAWA who succeeded Yoshiyasu.

Nankaku built a house near Shinobazu-no-Ike Pond and founded a school, and called the place as Fuyokan. He moved many times after this, but the place was continued to be called as Fuyokan. Nankaku's school which was considered equally excellent as Kobunjigaku (study of ancient rhetoric school) of Sorai was very crowded with many disciples waiting in line.

Nankaku had gentle personality and Rantei TAKANO who was Nankaku's friend of 10 years or so told that he had never seen Nankaku in a quarrel and speaking ill of others; furthermore, he had not even seen Nankaku angry nor delighted. His adopted child, Motoo (Haku HATTORI) wrote in the epitaph that Nankaku hid his personal history from his family, and had not told even his birth date.

Through these extreme ways in which he tried to conceal himself, one is able to see Nankaku's mind for recluses as a Bunjin (literati).

He died at the age of 77. His grave is in Tokai-ji Temple (Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo).

The strain of the learning

Nankaku learned Soraigaku (Kobunjigaku) from his teacher, Sorai OGYU, and with Shundai DAZAI, he was considered as the two best men from Kenen school sects. In reality however, Kenen school sects were split into Keigaku (learning of Keisho that is the general term for most important literature in Confucianism) party with Shundai DAZAI and Shunan YAMAGATA, and Shibun (prose and poetry) party with Nankaku, Higashino ANDO, and Kinka HIRANO. While attacking Shushigaku (Neo-Confucianism) that grasped human beings uniformly, Soraigaku was a school sect that positively grasped individuality of human beings; for this reason, it was essential to understand ancient words. In prose and poetry, they approved poems of Tang. Nankaku naturally had grounding in waka and renga which were original national culture of Japan, and it may be said that he had good understanding of the elegance and taste of poetry from the Tang dynasty. Since Nankaku had no interest in politics or military tactics, he completely ignored harsh criticisms of Shundai against kobunji, and kept himself away from political reality; he solely enjoyed prose and poetry, seeking in them, liberation of human nature. This was why Nankaku was assessed as the source of Bunjin in Japan.


Nankaku was strongly influenced by Sesshu, Shubun, Motonobu KANO, and learned painting by himself through copying such as 'Hasshu gafu' (Collection of eight picture books) that he himself criticized as vulgar. He was said to have gained painting techniques from his teacher, Sorai OGYU. Nankaku was skillful at Sansui-ga (Chinese-style landscape painting) and portraits, and was considered as one of the pioneers of literati painting in Japan.

Literary works

"Toshisen" (Selection of Tang Poems, late 16th century)
"Toshihini" (Collections of Tang Poems)
"Bunsenshogen" (Explanation of Joji, auxiliary letters; published in 1734)
"Nankaku sensei toukasho" (answers given to questions on poetry; published in 1734)
"Kakuchu Soji"
"Nankaku sensei bunshu" (Collections of Nankaku's poetry) A total of 4 books, 40 volumes and 24 booklets
"Daitoseigo" (Translations of famous Japanese poetry into Chinese; published in 1750)

[Original Japanese]